What with Royal Weddings, Chelsea Flower Show and not to mention the gorgeous weather we've had lately, we've had plenty to celebrate and what better way than to be in our gardens with a Pimms or what ever is your tipple.  
But have we offered our plants a drink? Lovely though it is when spring finally kicks in, this can be a treacherous time of year for our new plants. Often they struggle and may even die later in the season from lack of proper TLC when first introduced to our tubs and borders. 
Shrubs are particularly prone - many times have I pulled a forlorn shrub easily from the ground having made no root growth and died. Often it's sitting on a wet sump of compost, having rotted away over a wet winter. We are the culprits - the prized shrub is brought home, planted with a shovel of compost in the bottom of the planting hole, a quick splosh with the hose and then left to get on with it while the owners relax and go on holiday. All appearences suggest the shrub is fine - it grows a bit, flowers - then promptly dies over winter. 
Hilliers, the nursery chain across the South claim the average life expectency of a small shrub bought from their nursery is about 3 months - not something you would think they want to shout about . But the fault is not theirs but their customers; they are not always right, apparently.  
Water - lots of it, is the main ingrediant to success during planting. Most plants within reason will adapt to the surrounding soil but will need a bit of help.  
First soak your plant in a bucket of water, be it a shrub, prennial or annuals. Submerge the whole pot below the water level until all the air bubbles have escaped - then leave it for half an hour. A shrub or small tree could do with an hour, the root ball needs to be wet through. If it's been standing in a nursery for any length of time, it's easy for them to dry out. 
Next prepare the planting hole - dig a hole twice the size of the pot, breaking up the soil round the side so the roots can make some growth easily here - and dig into the hole a spadeful of compost - more for bigger shrubs. Compost hasn't a lot of nutrients but it does improve the soil structure and helps retain moisture while improving drainage. But it will just create a bog if it's not dug in thoroughly. I always dig in a handful of blood, fish and bone fertiliser to help give the plant a boost.  
Plant your plant - I tend to err on the side of planting a little deep as with watering, the topsoil can be washed off the top of the root ball, exposing the roots. Firm in gently- then water thoroughly. 
By this I mean a whole 2 gallon watering canful for a shrub or small tree and about half that for perennials. Annuals need to be sitting in a puddle before moving on to water its neighbours. In very hot weather this is best done in the evening when it's cooler. 
Then keep an eye on them, watering every few days if it's hot and dry - pots and tubs will need watering every day even if it rains! 
A good soak once or twice a week while they are getting established is far better than a spray every day. 
Remember that with growing leaves the plant will be transpiring water as fast as it can lap it up through its roots. 
For larger trees leaving the hose tricking at the base of the tree for a couple of hours will soak the surrounding soil and encourage new roots to reach down. 
And in this part of the world it's never that sunny for long - nothing beats a good soak by the rain. I can hear thunder clouds now ... 
Tagged as: Watering
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